Wedding stylists create fairy tale weddings.
Wedding styling refers to the design work which starts with conceptualising the look and feel of a wedding using various elements such as flowers, decor items, lighting and other elements to create a breathtaking visual and sensory experience with a distinct desire to impress.
So we start with meeting our clients, we establish the vision and then we create beautiful weddings. Right? In the ideal world maybe. In the real world, we face mistrust. It doesn’t matter if our portfolio is worth R10 000 or R10 million we have to prove ourselves to every potential client. We lack commitment from clients, and we work on very tight logistical set-up time frames. We face the frustrations of working with client’s fairy tale vision on a less than magical budget.
I recently hosted a workshop for wedding planners, and there were a few decorators there and we discovered that we all face similar problems:
1. Our Pinterest inspired brides do not have a budget required to execute a vision
2. Most brides do not udnerstand that ‘decor’ actually means flowers, decor, candles, furniture, lighting, linen, installations and all the materials, man power and logistical set up required to transform the venue from a hall into something very special.
3. We face fierce criticism from client’s family members and friends
4. We feel the mounting pressure to produce ‘different’ kind of weddings
5. We are not making money they deserve to make given our output of labour and scope of work. In fact, so many florists I spoke to recently admitted to loosing money on weddings, or barely breaking even
This made me incredibly sad. Then, it made me incredibly mad. Stylists, decorators, florists work so hard to produce a wedding. We invest into our stock, we spend time researching new and exciting decor range (I sometimes spend days driving around on sourcing trips), we need to have a delivery vehicles, we need to employ staff, our packaging costs are insane and all of this before we even touched a flower? So when a potential client comes into my studio and tells me they want something ‘simple’ and they are on a very tight budget I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that clients do not know. And I start educating them. It is time consuming and exhausting. And at the end of it all, they may or may not sign me up. Some couple have taken images of my work, my proposal, quotation and went somewhere else. Some lowered their expectations and I was able to came up with beautiful designs for them. Some just disappeared.
I worked out that I spend around 6 hours per potential client which entails preparing for a meeting, actual meeting, notes review, quoting, follow up emails and calls. I see around 10 potential clients per week, that’s 60 hours per week (remember that most people work 40 hours per week). I then realised that I was falling behind on my other responsibilities because I was wasting time on potential clients who were not going to hire me.
And now I charge for my consultations. Having a consultation fee made it easier to screen potential clients. The clients who are coming to see me now are more serious, more interested in learning about the process, and they value the time spent in my studio. And at the end of the day, even if they do not hire me they often take my advice, and I am getting paid for my time spent with them. It gave me a lot of time back. I am able to manage my time more effectively.
If you are going to start charging for your consultation, then follow these three simple steps:
1. Make sure you are prepared for your meeting. Have your marketing material, your portfolio and other tools ready.
2. You have to give your potential ‘value’ for the time they spent with you – and I mean knowledge/experience not a goody bag of some sort. Even if they do not hire you, they will hold you in high esteem and may recommend you to their friends.
3. Follow up with your promise. Give them the time frame for your proposal and stick to the deadline.
Education is key in managing expectations. It does take time and patience to explain to a couple why we charge what we charge. However, if you are wasting time on someone who cannot afford a stylist, indecisive and playing you against other supplier then you are not using your time and energy on financially rewarding endeavours.